birds conflict sitting on a branch, wild nature.

14 Fabulous Bird Facts

From the Arctic to the tropics, our feathered friends stir our senses with their stunning plumage, intricate and delicate songs, and astonishing adaptations.

Whether you're a seasoned birder or just beginning to appreciate the wonders of our winged neighbors, there's always something new to discover about these creatures.

How Many Birds Are There?

Bird perched with blue head.
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Birds exemplify diversity, with approximately 18,000 species worldwide and 1120 species in the US alone. Among these, the most common are the perching birds or “passerines”.

Passerines are known for their unique foot configuration, which has three toes pointing forward and one backward. This allows them to perch on slender structures like branches, wires, and feeders. They are also known for their distinctive vocalizations, often bursting into song.

All Birds Have Feathers

Close up on Parrot Feathers.
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All birds are dressed in feathers, and they're the only animals that do! Feathers serve essential functions like insulation, attraction of mates, and regulation of body temperature.

Almost All Birds Have Wings

Endangered New Zealand kiwi bird next to water.
Image Credit: Vee-Snijders/Shutterstock.

The world's only wingless bird is the kiwi, native to New Zealand. It has feathers that feel like hair, heavy marrow-filled bones, and a unique nostril placement on the tip of its beak.

These traits have led some scientists to refer to kiwis as “honorary mammals.”

Birds Are on Every Continent 

Bird Migration at Sunset.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Birds are remarkable in their ability to inhabit virtually every continent on the planet, from South America to North America, Africa, and beyond. They are adaptable creatures, capable of occupying a diverse range of environments and ecosystems.

As the seasons change, many species migrate from one habitat to another in search of food or suitable shelter for their young. This incredible flexibility and resilience make birds a fascinating subject of study for biologists and bird enthusiasts alike.

Some Birds Sound Like Humans

African Grey Parrot.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Birds, such as parrots and ravens, have an amazing ability to mimic human speech and sounds from their environment. The African Grey Parrot is known to be the most proficient talker, capable of learning hundreds of words and using them to communicate with its owners. 

Who Has the Largest Eyes?

Ostrich farm, a bird close up.
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The ostrich boasts the largest eyes of any land animal, with eyes larger than their brains – and about five times the size of human eyes.

Not only known for their large and domineering eyes, these flightless birds are famous for their long necks and exceptional running abilities, using their powerful legs to outpace predators in the wild. 

Sleeping With One Eye Open

Two Mandarin Ducks sleeping.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Ducks exhibit a unique sleeping pattern called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS), which enables them to rest and remain alert simultaneously. When sleeping in groups, ducks on the outer edges keep one eye open and stay vigilant for predators, while the rest of their group sleeps with both eyes closed. 

Some mammals (whales, dolphins, fur seals, sea lions) also exhibit this behavior. During USWS one hemisphere of the brain is sleeping while the other one is awake.

Sleeping While Flying

Albatross flying over ocean.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Albatrosses are among the largest seabirds, with a wingspan that ranks among the longest of all birds (8-11 feet). They are able to soar gracefully through the sky for extended periods without flapping their wings, thanks to their adept use of wind currents.

While floating through the sky, the albatross is able to sleep, albeit for only a few seconds at a time. Additionally, young albatrosses can spend several years at sea without ever touching land.

Penguins Do the High Jump

Adelie penguin jumping between two ice floes.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Penguins are known for their distinctive waddle and impressive swimming abilities. Despite being flightless, they are exceptional jumpers, leaping up to 9 feet onto the shore from the water.

Penguins propel themselves into the water by jumping and can swim rapidly to jump out of the water and onto land.

Shrikes Impale Their Food

bird on barbed wire. Shrike.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

The northern shrike is a cute looking little bird with a vicious way of hunting. The shrike is an ambush hunter. It seizes prey with its feet and then dives to the ground to finish the kill.

If not ready to eat, the shrike impales the prey on sharp objects like barbed wire or branches for later, earning it the nickname “butcher birds.”

Woodpeckers Are Fast

woodpecker climbing the tree.
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Woodpeckers' pecking habits can be quite impressive. Some species can peck up to 8,000 times a day and reach speeds of up to 16 pecks per second.

Their long tongues actually wrap around their brains, which gives them somewhere to store this appendage and protects their brains from percussive damage.

Some Birds Play

White necked raven gliding is a strong wind on top of mountain.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Crows and ravens are known for their playful nature. They engage in games with family members, friends, and even other animal species, including humans.

They also exhibit a range of emotions, from happiness and surprise to anger, which they express through vocalizations, body language, and facial expressions. 

Gross Vulture Behaviors

Ugly black bird Turkey vulture, Cathartes aura, sitting on the tree, Costa Rica. Bird with open wing. Bird with grey sky. Vulture with red head.
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Turkey vultures, known for eating dead animals, also have an unusual defense mechanism. When threatened, they vomit on potential predators, projecting vomit up to 10 feet away.

This behavior is definitely an effective deterrent. And if that wasn’t enough, turkey vultures are known to poop on their own feet to cool off, which helps to moisturize their skin and allows the evaporating moisture to cool them down.

Bird Extinction Rates Are Increasing

Dodo or Raphus cucullatus, vintage engraving.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Birds face an alarming extinction rate, especially in tropical regions, due to habitat changes. Since 1500, 154 bird species have vanished, and 18 were lost in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Bird extinctions lead to ecosystem imbalances, including the loss of plants and pest control, disease spread, and limited seed dispersal. This hampers food production and the availability of medicinal plants.

Conservation efforts are critical to safeguarding birds and their habitats. The National Audubon Society is an organization that focuses on protecting birds and the places they need to thrive.

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Elephants traversing the land in search of food.
Image Credit: Terra Mater Factual Studios.

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Pangolin walking in habitat.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

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Author: Todd Rowley

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Expertise: social services, transportation, mental health

Todd Rowley is a copywriter and content writer. He’s an unabashed introvert, an only child with a curious spirit, and a lover of the Oxford comma. Originally educated as a Child and Youth Worker - spending more than 25 years in the field - he also dabbled in Religious Education and Communications Studies.